Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On saints and sinners in YA.

A host of recent YA titles have us pondering our afterlife options. In Donna Freitas's The Possibilities of Sainthood, Antonia contacts the Vatican to inform them of certain oversights in the canonization of patron saints -- most notably, the lack of a Patron Saint of First Kisses. As Antonia says, "it is virtually impossible to get yourself kissed . . . without some heavenly intervention," necessitating a saint to intercede in this delicate situation. Luckily, Antonia herself is more than willing to fill the position!

Another (more serious) look at sainthood as a viable
career path is Cecelia Galante's The Patron Saint of Butterflies. Honey can't wait to leave the cultish religious community where she grew up, but Agnes is torn between her faith and her loyalty to her friend. Agnes's saintly ways are compromised when a dangerous discovery about the compound forces the girls and Nana Pete to escape. Honey and Agnes alternate narration, giving readers both girls' perspectives on their complex, confusing situation.

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, by Dale Basye, presents "Heck" as a postmortem reform school for naughty kids. Milton (get it?) and his sister Marlo find themselves in Heck after a freak marshmallow accident kills them both. The teachers at Heck (including Mr. Nixon and Miss Borden) are bad enough, but Milton and Marlo must also endure bully Damian and draconian Principal Bea "Elsa" Bubb. With their new friend Virgil, Milton and Marlo make a desperate attempt at escape.

In his melancholy novel London Calling, Edward Bloor uses a Philco 20 Deluxe radio to bring two troubled boys together -- across time and space. Modern-day Boston teen Martin and WWII-era Londoner Jimmy piece together Jimmy's memories with Martin's historical research to find the commonalities that connect them. London Calling explores the possibilities of life after death and time travel while prompting Martin (and readers) to question whether any secret can stay buried forever.

Speaking of sainthood... We'd like to suggest the late, great Ursula Nordstrom, legendary editor of Harper's Children's Department, for Patron Saint of Children's Books. Any other nominations?

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